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Do hollowpoint pellets work?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question comes from Bryan. “Do hollowpoint pellets really work?” Since Tom Gaylord already did that exact article in Shotgun News last year, I borrowed some of his ideas and added a few new ones to demonstrate the effect.

There are a couple of considerations before we begin. I think we all understand that the term “work” asks if hollowpoints expand in game. Gaylord used Neutrogena facial soap bars that are transparent as his test medium. I decided to use duct seal, like what is found in the Quiet Pellet Trap. Because duct seal isn’t transparent, I had to remove the pellets to photograph them. Tom was able to photograph them through the soap bar. His test also showed relative depth of penetration and the wound channel, but his pellets looked blurry. My pellets look sharper but I lost the wound channel and the relative penetration depth. You takes yer choice!

Test design
I shot from 12″ into a new Quiet Pellet Trap that has no pellets in the ballistic medium. The pellet is going much faster than a hunter’s pellet would strike a target, but duct seal is softer than flesh and bone. I feel this is a good representation of what a similar pellet would do at 20-25 yards in an animal. Even if it isn’t, it is a standard medium that all pellets were subjected to. The pellets were then carefully removed and more carefully cleaned for photography.

.22 JSB Predator
The Predator is a relatively new pellet from JSB. It’s more accurate than a lot of other hollowpoints, but not up to the level of good domed pellets. I shot it from the B40 used in the evaluation report, and it left the muzzle at 667 f.p.s.

JSB Predator shed the nylon tip and expanded well. Front half of pellet peeled back over rear half.

.22 Beeman Silver Bear
Beeman Silver Bears are oldies that are lightweight in .177 and on the heavy side of medium in .25. In .22, they’re lightweight. Also shot from the B40. Velocity was 744 f.p.s.

Beeman Silver Bear squashed together. Skirt appears blown out and top of pellet peeled back over it.

.177 Crow Magnum
The Beeman Crow Magnum is one of the legendary hollowpoints, with an established record of success. On the down side, accuracy drops off after 25 yards in many guns. For this pellet I used the .177 B40 I reviewed. Velocity was 916 f.p.s.

The Beeman Crow Magnum came apart. Front separated as lead ring and rear squashed together into solid chunk.

The control
We also need to ask whether other types of pellets mushroom – even as well as hollowpoints. For a control, I fired a .177 Chinese domed pellet from the B40. This was a very cheap pellet that I would never shoot in the field. It felt too small for the bore of the B40 during loading. Velocity was 879 f.p.s.

Chinese domed pellet was garbage to begin with. But it mushroomed like a hollowpoint!

Some hollowpoint pellets do work. However, so do some domed pellets, and they work just about as well. This “test” was just a minor excursion into the question Bryan asked. It generates more questions than it answers. For example, with a given pellet, at what velocity does it start deforming? How accurate are these pellets at a given range? And so on. All I tried to do was answer the question, but you can see there is a whole universe of knowledge before us.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

50 thoughts on “Do hollowpoint pellets work?”

  1. Hi, could you please do a short piece explaining how the 3 main pellet sizes compare in down range energy retention, velocity & hence effective range. All pest controllers want maximum knock down power, flat trajectory and long range. I appreciate you cant have it all but what about comparing say a heavy.177 with a similar weight to a .20 round and a .20 with similar weight to a .22. I have a hard time deciding which calibre is best, and what weight pellet to use if I were to only use one pellet size. Thanks, Selly

  2. B.B.

    Have not had the chance to post lately. Thanks so much for the informative discussion on the creation of (air) gun barrels.

    Next, can Air force rifles be arranged to use CO2 in a way like Pyramyd is doing Loguns?


  3. Thanks for the answer BB!

    I like how the .22 Silver bear looked, almost looks like it turned .25 from .22, and the cheap Chinese dome looks like it went from .177 to .22.

    Also noticed pellet hollow points don’t “flower” like firearm ammunition.h

  4. hi bb i want to put a beter sighting system on my 392. i have a cheap 4 by 32 scope that i want to put o it. i would get the intermounts and high scope rings so i woudnt have trouble getting to the louding port. i realize this will make it harder to cock. also i was considering getting a peepsight as well for close range shoting. any thoughts

  5. Luv the tech info in your blog, BB, you’re on my “read every day” list. I understand the science behind the inaccuracies you get when shooting pellets at trans- or super-sonic velocities. Do the same issues affect round balls also, since they have a different aerodynamic shape than diabolo pellets ?

  6. I think to make a hollow point “flower” ypu could cut slits aroound the hollow point. O might work or it might just fragment on impact, which would be good for close in sparrows from high velecity .177’s


  7. Selly,

    The answer isn’t straightforward. Each pellet shape has characteristics that differ more than caliber influence might dictate. Only when you use the exact same pellet at the same weight in two different calibers is comparison possible. The .20 caliber Crosman Premier has a better ballistic coefficient than the same pellet in .22. However, I believe those werte the only two pellets of the same weight and shape in different calibers, and the .20 is no longer made. You could tell just by looking at them that the .20 was the better performer because it was longer, hence had a better BC.

    I deal with a lot of pest services and exterminators like a .22 caliber for large animals like raccoons, and a lightweight wadcutter in .177 at low velocity for in-building work on small birds. The Talon SS with multiple barrels has long been the exterminator’s choice.


  8. does anyone have any experience with cooper-t? i want to buy a 12-gram “eliminator” and attach it to their 90 degree elbow, for a vertical tank setup.
    but i’m not sure if the elbow will collide with the barrel as i’m trying to screw it onto the eliminator’s fitting. is there much clearence between the place where you screw the airsource adapter in and the outer barrel? i still havent recieved an awnser since i asked, which is why i want to check here first. not responding to me after a few days makes me think twice about buying from them. unless this arrangement will work, i do not intend on buying a 1077. too much money eventually spent on powerlets, with all the shooting i do. and their regular kit only holds a tiny bottle that only holds 150 shots, plus there is a horrible tube extending from the eliminator to the bottle, which is placed under the trigger. also, do you know if there is a such thing as a detuned/canadian version of a 1077? there was mention of one on the 1077 forum (the one on network54)

  9. B.B.,

    What is opinion on springer tuning? I thought about buying a kit and doing it myself but I think I might send my cfx off to charlie da tuna, do you think is worth it? Do you have any opinions on tuning and the maccari springs? I know youve done it all so you must have something to say! This is something Im looking to do down the road a bit not tomorrow


  10. BB

    Can you give me some info about dispatching pests at short range …

    I have a HW45 pistol 22 caliber; I know this is not recommended for real hunting, but I figured it would do what I needed at point blank range. I read in one other post of yours where someone asked you if the Benjamin Sheridan HW22 would be good for quick backup mercy kill for small game you said it would be. The HW45 is rated slightly more powerful (500 fps vs 4something,) so I figured it would be okay.

    I am a good shot and will be able to get very close range and am planning to shoot only head shots. I am only interested in humane fast instantaneous kill. The animals are feral cats.

    So anyway, I bought the pistol and some hollowhead pellets, Premier hollow point 22’s.

    I wanted to make sure that this would all work neatly, so I wanted to try it out and get used to the gun etc. I bought some coconuts to practice. The pellets don’t penetrate into the coconuts. So I’m wondering, is this gun not enough oomph for even a quick brain shot dispatch at very close range; or are coconuts that much harder than a cat’s skull? And Would a different shape pellet be better for this? Thanks much.


  11. I would imagine a pointed pellet would be better in a low-powered pistol since you’re lacking penetration instead of battling over-penetration like the big rifles have, try a pointed pistol on the coconut and see what happens but I dont hink a pistol can provide a humane kill.

  12. bb, i know i cant use the peep sight and scope at the same time. i was thinking that because i alredy had a scope i could use that for long range shooting (50 meters+) because from that far away the front sight ends up being bigger looking than the accual target. i was also going to buy the peep sight to use for closer distances so cocking would be easier. i have tried cocking the gun all 8 times holding the pistol grip (or what ever it called on a rifle) to simulate how hard it would be to cock it with the scope mounted. the cocking was harder. however i would only use it for long distances and not very often. basically do you think it would be worth it to spend $25 more to mount a $30 scope. also will the peep sight improve the sight picture to the point where it will be easier to define my target. thank you for the valluble information.

  13. *correction to my post re: using pistol close range: Where I said the “Benjamin Sheridan HW22” I meant the BJ HB 22. My pistol, again, is the BeemanP1/Weihrauch45 .22.

    Thanks to anonymous for the pointed pellet suggestion; I’ll try it.

    Re: humane kill concerns, if I determine it is not likely that this will be accomplished humanely, I won’t attempt it.

  14. Hello B.B.,

    I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your review of the B3-1 pellet rifle-it was hilarious! It occurs to me that the Chinese air rifles (the cheaper ones, anyway) are a lot like the Chinese 9 X 18 metal working lathe that I have-it works, but in a very rudimentary way. I do have one Chinese air rifle and that is the “AR2078A” (also known as the QB-78, but with a “target stock”) CO2 air rifle, and it is pretty accurate as well as being not too badly made (the stock is a little proud of the recoil pad in one area, but other than that, nothing major). I look forward to more of your reviews in the future.



  15. B.B. *or anyone else*

    What would be most accurate out of the Quest 1000, Legacy 1000, and the Shadow 1000? Are they comparible to the 392/392? i want something at least as accurate as the 392/397. I hear good things about the shadow 1000, but im more of a wood stock kind of guy, more traditional in my eyes, but if performance out weighs the looks so much, then i guess its worth it…

  16. B.B.

    I know i already asked you this, but, i really NEED an answer, at least point me to a direction….If YOU had a max of $200-$220, what would be the air rifle you would buy? And why that particular one, instead of others. Please!!!

  17. The.Man,

    Tuning the right spring gun is worth the effort. The CF-X is accurate enough to warrent it. I hear good things about Charlie, so I’d trust that he’ll do a good job. Maccari makes great internal components. He’s a little strange to deal with, but his work is great.


  18. Peepsight,

    What I would do is get the peep foirst and try to use it at all ranges. I have used peep sights at 300 yards and they work better than you might think. They just take some getting used to.

    Then, if you want a scope, you’ll know why you do.


  19. Sticky,

    The MOST ACCURATE of the bunch you mentioned will be the Gamo Shadow. It will out-shoot the 392, but YOU have to apply the correct technique.

    If I had a max of 200-220, I’d get a CF-X. But you want a breakbarrel, so, once again, the Shadow 1000.


  20. B.B.

    Thanks a lot. I’m really srry for being a bug, i know you must be getting frustrated, but i just want you to know i really do appreciate your help a lot. Not many people will put up with so many stubborn or unknowledgable people, but you! your doin a great job, keep it up.

  21. B.B.,

    Thanks for the reassurance. I saw where you said youd be gone for a while and I apologize for posting it twice I thought it was overlooked since there were 5 or 6 more questions after mine. Thanks for your time.


  22. I’m pretty sure that Duxseal is more dense than flesh, in which case I would expect the cheap dome at slightly over 800fps to deform just as it did in the photo. While there is value in a standard medium, I’m also pretty sure that Duxseal is so stiff that the results in it will be less representative of pellet performance in flesh than in, say,
    Gaylord’s standard of Neutrogena soap bars. Put another way, most pellets from most guns will deform more aggressively in the stiffer Duxseal than in any more flesh-like medium.

  23. That’s a good point. I was believeing that duct seal would be an average of flesh and bone in small animals, and I wonder what it would do when hit by hollowpoints made from hard lead?

    Apparently there will be a part 2 to this report.


  24. BB.

    I know you can help.. and I know your are busy.. so when you can would you let me know how to get the most from my new Beeman gh950 combo. I’ve been shooting a lot and I’m deadly at 25 yards (putting 2 pellets through the same hole is common), but out to 50 yards the drop is significant. I mean 4 to 6 inches easy. Will this improve as the rifle breaks in? Should I use a lighter pellet? Seeing as I’m new to this, I’m looking for a little direction. By comparison I’ve got a Gamo Hunter 440 that has very little drop at 50 yards.

    Thanks in advance.

    (p.s. I did not know how to just ask you this directly so I hope that it is ok to post it as a comment)

  25. Rick,

    Asking here is the right way to do it.

    Don’t be concerned about the drop. A five-inch drop at 50 yards is about right if your zero is 25 yards.

    You didn’t mention what pellets you’re using so I can’t comment on that. I don’t even know the caliber of the rifle. But the drop is a normal amount.

    And is your 440 the same caliber? Wew’re not trying to compare a .223 with a .45/70 are we?


  26. Thanks for the quick reply.

    The Beeman GH950 is a .22 and the Gamo Hunter 440 is a .17. I’m using Gamo Magnum and RWS super-h-point in the .22. I’m using a variety of Crosman hollow point, Beeman match and hollow point, Gamo PBA and Rocket pellets in the .17. I was hoping that you may have some input about the Beeman GH950 in particular, it is a Norinca gun.

    I really like the hitting power of the .22 up close and the range of the .17 farther out. I’ve got 2 acres out in the country and I’m going to be setting a 25m and 50m traps. So I’ll have my own range to really put my new hobby to the test. Maybe I’ll send you some photos when it’s all done.

    Thanks a TON for all your posts.. I barley get any work done because of you.


  27. Rick,

    So we WERE comparing a .223 to a .45/70!

    Although the .22 does drop more, it also retains more impact energy at all ranges, so I would advise learning the trajectory.

    I do recommend trying JBS Exact domes in both guns They will sometimes shock you with their accuracy, though not always.


  28. Dear B.B.

    So I guess we were comparing apples to lemons.. Anyway I have a new question for you. I picked up some Beeman Kodiak extra heavy .22 pellets just for fun. I found I could not hit the broad side of the barn with them so I shot at a large board to see where they were flying. They were all hitting about 7″ high. I thought for sure my scope was off, but before I started adjusting down.. I loaded my standard Gamo Magnum pellet and hit the mark I was aiming for. I tried a lighter pellet and hit where the magnum was hitting. To make a long story short.. Why would a 21.10 gr pellet consistently hit higher at 25 yards than a lighter pellet?

    Thanks again


  29. Rick,

    You should try shooting a .;44 magnum with a long barrel and heavy loads. The shots go low. Then shoot the same gun with a light load and they go higher. The difference is recoil. The slower bullet, or in your case pellet, stays in the barrel longer, allowing the gun to climb with recoil.

    It’s more complex than that, but that is the general idea. The thing to do is to shoot a group with the Kodiaks, never changing the aim point, then compare it to what you now get with the Gamos. It might be worth resighting your rifle.


  30. Seriously, I was thinking the same thing as the other blogger, didn’t you guys at one point have 285fps 1077’s in stock? I would much more prefer this to the regular 625 fps 1077 due to it’s greater conservation of CO2. This gun seems perfect for the 10m range I have set up at home. If such a version of the 1077 is still available, is there any chance that there is a lack of accuracy in a model detuned to under two joules?

  31. I’ve never head of the model you mention. I know that for Canada, Crosman throttles the 1077 under 500 f.p.s., but under 300 is news to me.

    Perhaps it is a Chinese export (American gun going to China), but I don’t know that.


  32. B.B.,

    Hope I can pick your brain again. I’ve been practicing with my Daisy 22SG. Shooting into water produces virtually no mushrooming with several different hollow point pellets and ten pumps. (I’ve just ordered some Crow Magnums to play with…)

    As you’ve also mentioned in a number of posts, the domed pellets do have the best precision. At 12 yards I’ve got a number of 5 shot groups with Diabolo Exact pellets from a bench rest that can be covered with a dime. I’ll never expect to be that good trying to whack squirrels from less controlled shooting positions.

    (Question 1) Is shooting into water that far off from flesh?

    (Question 2) Would filling the hollow point with wax (something else?) reduce the drag and/or improve precision? My thought was to drip candle wax into Crow Mangum, then “reflow” the wax in my toaster oven to get a nice conical head. The wax melts at such a low temp that I wouldn’t be worried about contaminating my toaster oven with one quick experiment. (Not reckless, but not paranoid either since I’ve bitten more than one piece of shot in a quail or dove…)


  33. Herb,

    Water is not a good flesh analog. Try soap. But don’t expect any mushrooming from a .22 SG.

    Mushrooming isn’t a good killer in a pellet gun anyway. The domed pellet will do the job without deformation, unless it hits bone.

    You have to think like a buffalo hunter instead of a varmint hunter, when shooting an air rifle.

    As far as the wax experiment goes – try it and see what happens. I’m guessing the accuracy will decline from unbalanced pellets, but we won’t know until you try it.


  34. B.B.,

    Tried the experiment and got mixed results. Filling the tip of the Crow magnum pellets did indeed tighten the grouping with 4 pumps on my Daisy 22SG. But with 10 pumps, shooting into gelatin didn’t displace the wax tip. Since the 22SG doesn’t have enough power to mushroom pellets even with 10 pumps, the wax is thus a convoluted method to make a wad cutter pellet.

    Tried the same experiment with my Crosman G1 springer. However I don’t shoot it well enough to see a difference in precision between round nose pellets and the crow magnums at 10 meters. A wax tipped Crow Magnum does still mushroom, displacing the wax tip.

    The other thing is that “reflowing” the wax in a toaster oven wasn’t wildly successful. The lead pellets are “wet” by the wax so that the melted wax drains off to form more of a flat head pellet than a round head one.

    I assume that your comment about being a buffalo hunter meant to think about shot placement as opposed to raw power of the projectile. A hollow point might deposit more energy in varmint than pellet which passes through, but the kill is dependent on having good placement of the shot to begin with.

    Thanks for the insights…


  35. B.B.,

    While playing around with the wax I also tried to cut notches into the head of a pellet with a dremel cut off wheel. Idea was that (1) notches would make pellet flower, and (2) the wax could be used to fill the head and restore aerodynamics. However the pellet melted with friction of cutoff wheel making a mess.


  36. B.B.,

    I also experimented with putting a standard BB on 0.22 Crow Magnum, held on by wax. Filled CM level with wax, forced BB onto top, then reflowed wax in toaster oven. Very tight group on 3 out of 4 shots with 10 pumps, but very low and to the left compared to JB exacts which were dead on (shooting with 4X scope, 10 meters).

    A #6 lead shot seems about right for 0.177 CM, but haven’t tried that yet.

    I haven’t tried either into gelatin yet.

    I did try 0.177 Gamo Rocket pellets into water and gelatin with my Crosman G1. Into water at point blank range the ball separated and the lead pellet mushroomed. At 10 meters no separation of ball, but deep penetration into gelatin.

    I keep microwaving gelatin and recasting it into 24 oz beer cans. Punched hole in bottom so I can get gelatin out. Cover hole with drops of candle wax. Scrape off wax and run under hot water for a couple of seconds to “decan” gelatin. (Might have to sacrifice and drink a few more cans of beer. Shot up a few cans… 😉 )


  37. BB’s (Tom Gaylord’s) article on hollowpoints in Shotgun news:

    My experience is that with 22SG shooting into water more closely duplicates gelatin. Tom’s results with the soap bar or pellet trap show more deformation than I got shooting into gelatin.

    Shooting my 22SG into concrete melts pellet into a flat blob of metal. So the 22SG has enough raw power to mushroom. Thus for mushrooming to occur, its about deceleration of pellet in the medium of choice.


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